APS April Meeting 2019


The view out of the back window looking towards Zilker Park and the City of Austin.

With frightening regularity, the calendar once more moved to the third Monday of the month bringing with it, the Austin Pond Societies Monthly Meeting held as usual in the Zilker Botanical Gardens Clubhouse. This meeting was our Annual Plant Swap when our members bring in their surplus plants both of the garden and pond variety. The one stipulation is that if by chance, anything you bring in is not taken by another eager Ponder or Gardener, then it must return home with the original owner. That turned out not to be the case this time around as the offerings were pretty slim compared to previous plant swap meetings which is surprising considering that this was our best attended meeting of the year with about forty members showing up.

Along with the Swap and at the same time, Darren Bayhi was holding a re-potting seminar for anyone interested in “How to re-pot Lilies” which included both Tropical, Hardies and also Lotus.. As the swap was drawing to a close, more and more people stopped by Darren’s table to ask questions and watch his demonstration.

Prior to the swap, many members had volunteered to help set up the tables and kiddie pools used for this event. For this, they were given the opportunity of having first dibs at whatever took their fancy before the main body was let loose. With the small number of plants on offer, this was a good decision on their part.

Prior to the actual swap and following a meal of hot dogs with all of the fixin’s topped off by various deserts brought in by the members, Barb Lenhardt, President, had some business to offer which included a discussion by Ted Paone, who talked about the upcoming Tour with the membership. He outlined the Charities that will benefit which includes Central Texas Gardner on KLRU-TV, Austin Pets Alive, and Donor Choice, a charity which funds projects for teachers and students. Prior to his presentation, Ted was awarded the Koi Person of the Year Award voted on by the Members present for his efforts with the Pond Tours.

Ted was followed by Mike Peppers, our new Treasurer who outlined the budget for the Members along with many apologies for the lateness of the report. With the budget voted on and passed by the Membership and there not being anymore business, it was time to get on with the important event of the day which of course, was the Plant Swap.

Following the aforementioned reward for volunteering, they were allowed out the door first followed after a few minutes by the rest of the Members. The plants were taken in record time and the clean up started by those same volunteers who we thank for their efforts.

The next meeting will be on May 20th. The Speaker will be Katie Boyer of the US Fish and Wildlife and she will be talking about Monarch Butterflies. As these are another of Nature’s species that are in trouble due to man’s incompetence in managing the Planet, then it would be well worth our while to see what we can do to help save this species.

Hope to see you there.

Written 4/17/2019

Springtime Garden Flowers 2019


This is a beautiful time of the year in Texas. All of the trees are filling out with the prettiest shade of green and the garden and ponds are just full of all kinds of wonderful flowers.

My garden is not one of the cultivated sort and I tend to let things just grow. Nearly everything is Native Texan so I can pretty much be sure that it will grow back after each winter. I have no idea what many of the flowers are called and about the only ones I recognize are the Roses, Arun Lilies, Cornflowers, Iris and a couple of others. They are all so welcome and a sure sign that Summer is not far away. We tend to have a short Spring and then all of a sudden, its a hundred degrees outside.

Enjoy the video.

Written 4/1/2019

A Battle of Wits


Scarecrow


The Heron is a very wily adversary and relies a lot on keeping the pond owner guessing as to when he is likely to show up. I spent a week at home only leaving when I absolutely had no other choice, like running out of food or keeping a pre arranged Doctors visit. Normal stuff except when there is a hungry Heron wanting to catch and eat your Koi and Goldfish. He kept no regular patterns and it meant getting up at the crack of dawn because as soon as it was light enough for him to see, he would swoop down from the tree that he had perched in and land on the Goldfish pond wall. If the fishing wasn’t very good there, he quickly moved over to the L shaped pond which is the shallowest pond out of the four big ones. The Heron knew he could safely wade in this pond and as the video shows, spent time pursuing and if he was lucky, catching and eating fish. Other times he would fly in mid morning, other times mid or late afternoon and even late in the evening. There was no telling when he would show.

On a previous run in with a Heron several years ago, I put wire fences around each of the ponds and then attached a doggy shocker which worked pretty well as eventually, that particular Heron stopped coming. I was Heron free for maybe 3 years before the current one has shown up. I went to work on the shallow pond and installed a system of cross-wires that diagonally dissected the pond and were about a foot above the water essentially dividing the pond up into small sections. I tried to install the doggy shocker but the wires grounded out in several places so the system would not work. I left the wires as strung and turned my attention to a more physical presence in the form of a Jet Spray Scarecrow. I had purchased one several years ago but due to non use and probably neglect on my part, this one leaked and I could not find a way to prevent it. I had no choice but to go on line and see if I could find another on E-Bay or Amazon and managed to locate several that were available. They were by a different manufacturer, Hoont, but as they were a lot cheaper, I quickly tagged one for $29.99 and went through the checkout process. I deemed that this was an emergency and paid additional postage to get it to me in three days in which it duly arrived. This one is brand new in an unopened box and I quickly set about installing it on the shallow pond.

The very next day, the Heron showed up and my first inclination was to rush outside and scare it away but I decided to watch from my vantage point indoors to see what happens. After exploring the Goldfish pond without any luck that I could see, it flew up into a tree above the shallow pond and then sat there for what seemed an eternity. It kept looking down at the shallow pond as if it so see a way for it to safely fish but it stayed in the tree. Then all of a sudden it hopped around and flew off as fast as it could. I went out and checked and the Scarecrow had been activated and as it is pretty noisy, was enough to frighten it away.

I immediately went back on line and purchased another for $25.00 from the same company only this one was a slightly used one. When it arrived, it was missing a couple of screws which I was able to replace and I installed it on the Goldfish pond. I was able to adjust them both so that they limited the spray to the distance of the pond meaning that I am able to walk around the ponds without getting soaked. As far as I can tell, the Heron has not been back as the fish are beginning to lead a normal life and are starting to show themselves again.

I am not suggesting for one minute that I can declare victory over this wily opponent as I am sure that it will not give up that easily. If, by chance, he decides to turn his attention to either of the big ponds with the the very large Koi in them, then I will purchase a couple more of the Scarecrows and get them set up. Here’s hoping that it wont be necessary.

Written 4/8/2019

A Visitor to my Ponds


A not very welcome visitor

I had a very interesting visitor to my ponds yesterday. This one was about 4 feet tall with a 5 feet wingspan and was a beautiful blue-grey color. He was not a welcome visitor but that didn’t seem to phase him one little bit.

I have put together a video of his/her time that was spent in my ponds yesterday morning. The video is not of the greatest quality as it is made up of 7 separate videos that I got from the surveillance cameras of which I have 4 scattered around the yard and pointing at the ponds. These cameras only record in 2 minute increments and are motion driven which quite literally means anything that moves be it wind, water, waterfalls, decorative fountains and the like and includes me, when I am out there and of course, the dogs. The very first set of pictures is from a camera that is going bad and needs changing out hence the black and white effect. The rest show the heron in all of its glorious color.

The black and white picture is of a pond that used to be joined together to the pond in the color pictures that follow before I rebuilt it making it 4 feet deep. Way too deep for the heron to jump in which is probably why he moved quickly to the adjoining pond where the water is only 2 feet or less deep making it easy for him to wade around at his leisure as you can see from the video.

It is not clear just how many fish it managed to eat but judging from the absence of goldfish in the pond, I would say that he got quite a few. They could be hiding out and may appear in one’s and two’s later on but I am not holding my breath. There are still 7-8 12 plus inch Koi which is about what were there before so I imagine that he left them because they present a more difficult eating/swallowing problem than do the much smaller goldfish. We will just have to wait and see if when he returns. I keep calling it a “He” but truthfully, I have no idea if it is male or female and I have not read of any differing characteristics.

Stay tuned as I’m quite sure he will be back. Where were the dogs, you might ask. Probably curled up with me in bed and even if they heard anything were way too comfortable to be bothered with it.

Written 4/8/2019

Return of Winter


Springtime

Isn’t it ironic that on the day I post a poem heralding the return of Spring to my part of Texas, that same night we get temperatures below freezing that lasted for three days. It was mostly overnight temperatures that were freezing as during the daytime, the thermometer went up to around 40 degrees which by itself is way too cool for us warm blooded Texans. Just like our women, we like the weather to also be hot although to be fair, you will hear us grumble about continuous 100 degree days in the Summer. Given the choice, most of us will take the heat anytime.

For someone who moved down from New York State 42 years ago, these cold days are nothing compared with some of the horrendous winters that I endured in my 10 years in that State, resulting in my fleeing as fast as I could and as far south as I could in double quick time. When I very occasionally go back for a visit, I make sure it is in the Summertime.

That being said, the frost damage to the new vegetation was not as bad as I thought it might be but will still require some clean up work on my part, darn it. Dare I hope that this is the last of the freezing weather for us. I really want it to be as I can’t remember having frosts this late in the season. Normally, ours is over by the end of January. The forecast is for it to be back up in the 70’s by Thursday with overnights in the 50’s. Makes me wonder if the weather patterns are really changing or is it just some freak act of Nature. I’m waiting to see if the Brown Snake made it through OK as I have kinda got used to having him make me jump out of my skin when I come across him unexpectedly. Good job he is harmless. I wonder what it is about snakes that makes man fear them so much. BTW, I say he but it could be a female. I wonder how you tell the difference?

Talking of ponds, the frost has done a job on the some of the pond vegetation which means that I will need to get into the ponds in order to clean it up. I will put that off as long as I can as the water is freezing cold. Not literally of course but figuratively speaking.

Let’s see where we go from here temperature wise…

Written 3/5/2019

Wondering


I wonder what this year will bring
now that it is nearly Spring
trees all bursting out with leaves
and flowers of every color achieved
everything new and fresh and green
Natures wonders to be seen
a new birth for her every year
to make everything fresh and clear
what about the rest of life
will it bring to me another wife
of one thing I am very sure
no more as wives for me I deplore
three of them I have tried
and none of them could decide
that I was meant to be their mate
which we found out almost too late
that was many years ago
I have lived alone and like it so
with no one telling me what to do
and living my life as they haven’t a clue
of what it is that make me tick
come to that I am not so slick
as often I don’t know which way is up
but I have no wives so I am in luck
I wonder how hot it is going to be
when Summer arrives we shall see
but this is Texas and we all know
that hot it will be as the temperature shows
at least one hundred degrees and more
in the middle of summer the temperature soars
we slap on the cream and put on our hats
and venture out for no bravery we lack
it is a part of everyday life
the heat of the Summer is a part of the strife
that we face from day to day
and on this we can have no say
as Mother Nature is who decides
on the weather and how we live our lives
and she has decided that it is Spring
that we can enjoy as the birds all sing.

Written 3/2/2019





A Walk Around the Garden. 2/5/2019


With the weather as mild as it is here in Texas, it is hard to believe that technically, it is still winter. The outside temperature is at 65 plus degrees and true to form, Mother Nature is hurrying all of her charges along in an attempt to put on a show. Luckily for me, I managed to get ahead of the game and cut down all of the dead and decaying material giving the new growth plenty of room to succeed.

The Knockout Rose is really excelling and has some beautiful blooms and lots of them. Years ago, I planted a bunch of bulbs and some of them, mainly Narcissus, are flowering like crazy. I also discovered several clumps of Violets except they are of the white variety. One plant is in the waterfall on one of the ponds.

I also spotted my resident garden snake that seems to have found a permanent home here. I have watched him (or her) grow from about two feet long to almost four feet long today. He has also increased his size around the girth and is now a very plump specimen. Probably due to his frog and the occasional fish diet. This time, he was sunning on one of the pond plants in the 6000 gallon pond and when he did eventually spot me, all he did was disappear back under the cover of that plant. Below are three more pictures of him.

Since taking these pictures, the weather has got a little cooler with chances of overnight frosts. Hopefully, we will get lucky and if there is a drop in temperature it will not go below freezing. We are almost halfway through February and winter officially ends on March 21 although for us, it will be much sooner than that. It is worthwhile putting up with the summer heat and 100 plus degrees just to not have winter. I hate being cold…

Written 2/8/2019